Updated: Jun 14, 2021
Hello there! Here I am with a bit of a gnarly subject and it’s probably some of the most important work I do with some clients.
For some of us, the very word ‘forgiveness’ itself will provoke a reaction. If it does, notice whereabouts you feel it in your body and what this could be telling you. If you recoil at the very thought of it, then that may be your body telling you that there is work to be done. You have to be ready for it but the process is far easier than you might imagine.
Now if you know me or have read my other stuff, you will know that I do like a bit of a laugh and to inject some humour into the emotional world I work in. This could be a challenging topic for humour however….laughter is such a good vibration that I will do my best to weave it in!
Let’s lay some foundations first though because I am only too aware of the sensitive nature of this topic and I wish to be respectful to everyone who takes the time to read this.
First of all, let’s check in with what the word ‘forgiveness’ means to you or how you define it. All good coaches know that we can have different interpretations of the meaning of words and phrases, so my definition and meaning of forgiveness could be different to yours.
My version is this: forgiveness is NOT about condoning any behaviour or denying that we have been impacted or hurt, it isn’t about who is wright or right either. It is the gift we give ourselves to free us from pain and find a level of inner peace and healing.
Let me also stress here that there are various situations where people hold the energy of unforgiveness, hurt or pain and they are on such an EPIC scale of difference.
For example, it could be that you are reading this thinking “yes my boss said something to me the other day that was really insensitive and really hurt my feelings”
or you could be thinking “my (insert family member of your choice) never treats me fairly, why can’t they just love me for who I am” or you could be carrying an excruciating memory from past abuse. BIG BIG differences!
So let me absolutely clear again, that I am not talking about condoning behaviour. That’s not what forgiveness means to me. Some things, particularly sensitive and traumatic experiences will NEVER EVER be anywhere close to OK and my version of forgiveness does not suggest that you need to think it was OK, it ****ing wasn’t, ever, ever, ever, ever! Hope I have made that abundantly clear, sorry for using a swear word, it is a low form of getting the message across but I don’t have a megaphone on this keyboard! All my messages come to you with the greatest love and respect and the best intention.
You also know your own truth so trust your intuition, trust the feedback from your body and mind and if the way you are doing things is working and bringing you peace and happiness then that is the answer my friend. My thoughts may shed some light and if they do, that is wonderful but your version of the truth is important (not for the ego but for your soul).
“I think the first step is to understand that forgiveness does not exonerate the perpetrator. Forgiveness liberates the victim. It’s a gift you give yourself.”
— T. D. Jakes
Ok so back to the topic!
If forgiveness can set you free……then what would the opposite of that look like?!
It’s like the other low frequency emotions I talk about, it is a painful emotion or feeling that is trapped inside us, we literally carry it around like baggage, it lowers our vibration and it can weigh us down.
Sometimes we can busy and distract ourselves, brush it under the carpet, maybe stuff it down with food or tire it out with alcohol and for a time, we might not think about it but the reality is that it still plays out like a faint soundtrack in the back of our mind.
Each experience will be different, for some, it will impact behaviour and they will witness the same patterns playing out in their life. For others it will be a sense that they are being held back in some way, maybe they don’t feel ‘good enough’ or can’t really allow themselves to fully shine or find their path. For others it will plague them with insecurity and drive unhelpful behaviour, often creating the opposite end result to the one they truly deeply yearn for. Some will harbour deep seated blame and resentment and it will fester and cause pain and rejection throughout their life. Others won’t even realise that this is occurring until they are ready for change.
"Without forgiveness life is governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation." Roberto Assagioli
Whatever your experience is, perhaps it is a call to action. Our emotions are the best messengers, they tell us what we need to heal and what we need to work are we paying attention? We can so easily be disconnected from ourselves in this fast paced, externally focused world that we forget about the innate ability we have to heal from within.
The subconscious mind holds emotions in our energetic body. When they are negative (for want of a better word because all emotions have a purpose) they become trapped and we need to do the healing work to release them. Not just that, but better still, to understand how we can learn from it so that we can change the patterns and the feelings going forwards and ultimately change our path.
A clear example of how this works can be demonstrated by me asking you to conjure up an image right now of someone who you feel has ‘wronged’ you?
How do you feel? I can guarantee that if you carry some level of unforgiveness, you will feel a sensation in the body. It could be nausea from the pit of your stomach, it could be a tightness in the chest, it might be an ache in the head or a pain in the heart to name a few. My belief is that is a sign from your body to say “hey man, let’s work on this so we can release it and set you free” or as I like to call it ‘shovelling the sh!t out.” It’s far less invasive than colonic irrigation too I hasten to add!
"As long as you don't forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy a rent-free space in your mind." Isabelle Holland
Unforgiveness can have a physical manifestation too. It makes sense that low frequency emotions can come through as physical pain, physical weaknesses, low energy, fatigue, tiredness, anxiety and depression because our body responds to feelings, thoughts and beliefs. Think about stress and anxiety and how our body reacts to every thought, feeling or belief with a set of corresponding chemistry; feeding us with the likes of cortisol and adrenaline. This causes many issues including inflammation; one of the major contributions to illness and poor gut health (which has a significant impact on the immune system and mental health).
It doesn’t go away until we deal with it the actual root cause of it, which from my experience of working with clients, reading and research is often much deeper than the surface stuff.
I would love for this blog to help you to perhaps think a bit differently or maybe provide some depth or perspective. If it doesn’t, then feel free to print it off and use it in a way that reduces the current concern for toilet roll shortage! Ha, right, not sure how this blog has descended to the bog so let’s move on up from there!!
Forgiveness then! It is the gift you give yourself, it actually has NOTHING to do with the other person/situation. At this stage, it’s not about communicating with that other person, it’s about changing the energy from within to heal yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in communication but there is a time and a place for it. In many situations, we can change the game in a relationship purely by working on ourselves.
I am not saying this is the full solution but think of it this way, you could be carrying negative emotions that you have felt for some time (maybe years!) and that carries an energetic charge (you will no doubt feel it) and the thing is, other people feel that too. They feel it above the spoken word, we can all read body language and facial expressions and we can feel energy. So if you haven’t changed that internally, it is likely to present itself in the same way, the pain will still be there and you may bring that energy to the conversation.
So, we can change the energy of it for ourselves first to have the absolute best result should the time ever come to have a conversation (you will know if/when that is appropriate or even possible, it’s not absolutely necessary in many situations). For some people, the person in question may not be in their area anymore, they may not even be alive. The answer is to do the work ON and FOR yourself, regardless.
The benefit of being able to practice forgiveness is to release yourself from the pain. When we carry it around, it affects us on some level and may be affecting other relationships in the process.
Here’s another aspect around the importance and benefit of releasing and forgiving. We can’t really believe that we can create a life to love when we are still holding onto any level of blame or resentment….it’s like an internal or even energetic tug of war. It’s like saying ‘yes I fully accept that I am the one creator of my life, but I do hold that person partly responsible for what they did to me.” Or saying “yes I can achieve anything I want in life but because that happened to me, I will always be held back.”
When we have these thoughts (and some of them will be on such a deeply ingrained level that we may not be consciously aware of them but they will be driving us) then we are essentially seeing the victim archetype rise up in ourselves.
When we become a victim (and we all do it!) we disempower ourselves. It doesn’t mean that crappy stuff hasn’t happened to us, being a victim is about the mindset we choose. If we choose that mindset then we disempower ourselves for being the creator in our life, for having the power of choice. We give ourselves permission to duck out and it could for some people even be a comfort zone. It’s that same idea about how our limiting beliefs also have a benefit to them, that might sound odd if you haven’t heard it before but there is always something called secondary benefit to us not believing we can do something. It can be as simple as not getting out of the comfort zone……because on some level that keeps us safe, knowing what we know.
We can free ourselves of pain when we learn to forgive, remembering it’s not always for or about the other person, it is how we choose to receive and process the message internally. If it came in at childhood, then the instant thoughts at that time could be deeply embedded because as children we didn’t have rationale or logic to call on in the processing of it.
Bearing in mind also that if we have felt this way for any length of time, there will be a mental trail of stories attached to why it happened and what that really meant for you…….this is often where the pain resides, it is around the story we have told ourselves. Why do we do this? Because the thinking brain loves an answer, even if it doesn’t have all the information! The ego might make up its own version of reality that serves you at the time (although if it’s a desperate need to be right, it is likely torturing you on the inside) and it could be beating you up with an unpleasant version/interpretation.
Something that causes a great deal of pain and problems in relationships and for ourselves is judgement. We can feel the energy of judgement between, from and to people. It doesn’t feel good when we have it within ourselves either about someone else or about ourselves.
If we have a painful memory, whatever it was, can we consider that in some way we could be judging the other person? If someone didn’t do things in what we consider to be the right way, are we possibly being judgemental? Perhaps that person handled things in the best way they personally knew how, perhaps that was all they were capable of at the time, perhaps it was all they knew. This doesn’t mean you need to continue to have a relationship with them if it’s not achievable or poses issues for you, it’s just a way to find internal peace in the form of an acceptance rather than resistance. You might know different but that’s not to say that they did. We are all a product of our own pain and experiences.
The need to be right and for the other person to be wrong can be a huge source of pain and the reason many disagreements are not resolved. We don’t truly feel the benefit of forgiveness by being right (but we really really really think we do)! The need to be right is about the ego. Making one person right and the other wrong does not make people feel better, it doesn’t make the pain melt away. Yes of course, justice is important, if you were in a court battle let’s say, but when it relates to personal relationships, just feeling that you were right is not going to bring harmony to the situation. In most cases, there is something to forgive on both sides. We don’t see this during the heat of the red mist but when we come out of the other side (over the rainbow!) then I feel we can see that our own actions for whatever reason may also require a little forgiveness. Nobody is perfect. We can forgive ourselves too and that’s an important part of the process.
"Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me." –Anonymous
Judgement can also manifest itself in high expectations of the self, maybe into perfectionism and it could relate to control. What are you trying to have control over? If you live in such a way that you are not going to let things go, then how else does this permeate through your life? Does it mean that you don’t let go of the little things? Do you feel the urge to mention or criticise when people do the smallest of things incorrectly? Notice the inner voice or inner critic. It could be a sign that you need to let things go. Are you tough on yourself? Maybe it is because you have such sky-high expectations. Are you judgemental about yourself when what is actually needed is to learn and practice self-compassion?
It may well be that on the other side of this, in some situations, there could be a positive relationship going forward, if we give it a chance and if we remove our expectations (letting go of these expectations can be extremely liberating, like a weight lifted) and do the work to de-sensitise ourselves and remove the build up of negative energy.